2016 – Year in Review

Many Hands Holding Red Letters The Isolated English Word Never Stop Learning On White Background
image source: bigstockphoto.com

We want to wish everyone a Happy and Prosperous 2017. We look forward to weekly posts from our amazing guest bloggers and occasional bloggers who always provide first-rate resources, tips, and practical ideas that encourage us all to strive towards excellence in our profession. This Friday look for our first post of 2017 from occasional blogger, Carol Blake.

Before we jump into the New Year, we thought it would be fun to look back on 2016, so we asked our Guest Bloggers and Blog Admin Team about the blogs that stood out and were most helpful for them. We hope you enjoy this year-in-review.

Greg De Luca – As a blogger for TESL Ontario, I have an excellent opportunity to not only share my point of view, but engage with a professional and diverse community of ESL professionals and learn from them as well. Specifically, I always stay tuned for John Allan’s posts because they help me get informed on various pedagogical IT resources and keep me in check when I have potentially strayed from more than ideal approaches to using them.

Cecilia Aponte-de-Hanna – Last year’s blogs – 2016 – continued to encompass a variety of topics, which is great because TESL Ontario members come from different fields of expertise, so everyone would probably have their very own favourites. For me, my favourites tend to be topics that deal with reflective practice, so being asked to choose my favourite two blogs from my fellow guest bloggers is certainly not an easy task! Which two?

  1. John Allan’s May 2nd blog “Supply Teaching – A Positive Experience” is one that caught my attention. This blog is a great example of reflective practice, which in itself is a form of PD. John shared his experience from the heart, and gave a positive twist to the art of supply teaching. I wrote about this topic in 2015, and
    like John, found the experience rewarding. For anyone doubting their choice to supply, don’t. Read John’s blog. It is inspiring.
  2. Gwen Zeldenrust’s August 1st post “Impostor Syndrome” would be my second choice. First, because the title rose my curiosity; second, because Gwen was sincere and not afraid to share some of the fears many teachers feel at one time or another. Opening up to a topic that would probably be kept quiet in staff rooms was a great idea. In this blog, Gwen is saying “Teachers – we are not alone.”

James CorcoranJames Corcoran – I have identified several stimulating posts, but I will go with Greg DeLuca’s October 17th post, ESL for Specific Purposes, as the one I was most intrigued by. As I posted in the comments section, I think his post highlights several misconceptions both students and teachers have about English for specific purposes, for example, English is an “easy” language to learn, and intensive courses can expect amazing learning outcomes. Greg importantly raises the need for teachers to consider the dynamic nature of language use and the limitations of language-for-specific-purpose courses in promoting language learners’ flexibility in adapting to standard / non-standard English use alongside their ability to negotiate meaning. Overall, I thought the post was important in that it promotes critical reflection on language teaching / learning among teachers, which I feel should be the main objective of this forum.

Gwen Zeldenrust – My favourite blog post this year was written by Kate Maven, posted July 4, 2016 – Kate’s top 10 secrets: How to succeed in Canadian culture. It was a very practical tool for newcomer parents. It exposed some of the underlying rationale of Canadian cultural expectations. I think that people living in any society need to explore the reasons that we do things in a certain way. This post made me stop and think about the expectations I have for my children, my acquaintances, and my students. Where do these expectations come from? They are not universal, rather they have emerged from the culture that I live in.

Laila Al-Sbeinati – I thoroughly enjoyed Gwen Zeldenrust’s The Vowels, They are Changing blog post. I think it’s vital for all of us to understand how language came to be, and how it was utilized then versus now. When we understand why words sound a certain way, we start to have an appreciation for, and justify why, some words are spelled one way but are pronounced another way – which may dispel any ambiguity an ESL learner may have about the English language.

Anytime I teach any class, pronunciation is a key component in my lesson plans; it builds confidence in our learners when they’re able to pronounce words correctly, which in turn further motivates them to want to continue learning the English language. Thank you for such helpful tips to get our ESL learners one step closer to mastering the English language.

I also absolutely loved Beth Beardall’s Student-Lead Discussion post. It provides detailed information and great lesson plan ideas on how to encourage your students to discuss topics, whether they happen to agree with them or not. Discussions can quickly escalate and become heated if not handled properly, especially when there’s a language barrier between the parties involved.  Giving our students the necessary tools to help them in the real world is indispensable. I’ve actually never thought to have a student-lead discussion in my class, but after reading Beth’s blog post it made complete sense to me that it’s important to incorporate these kinds of activities in class.

John Allan – It is difficult to pick just one or two posts as a favourite. I look forward to each Monday’s posts as a means of learning more about our profession from a variety of perspectives.  It is an easy way to keep current.

Tamsin Cobb – Over the years, I have read from and been inspired by passionate, reflective, and innovative professionals on this blog. It is so difficult to choose just one post that captured me, so I’ll pick from a few!

James Corcoran’s Autobiographical Identity Text post really highlighted the reflective nature of learning and spotlighted true andragogy by allowing adult learners to delve into their past and look back on their journey. I remembered doing this in my own literacy course during my Bachelor of Education program and how I carefully drew out my journey on a long piece of white paper jotting down my ‘critical literacy’ moments, so I loved how his post showed a more virtual/techy component.

As a Writing Consultant in my day job, I am constantly reading students’ essays and giving them information about the standard format, so when Cecilia Aponte-de-Hanna wrote her post, First-Second-Third…In Conclusion, I read it like a child reading her favourite story – knowing how it’s going to end, but hanging on every word nonetheless.  I found myself nodding my head in agreement with Cecilia and thinking “yes, why do we teach it like this….ALL. THE. TIME?!”  I love how Cecilia’s posts let you in to her thought process. She often tells you her question – her entry point to the post – and it makes you feel like you’re on this research journey with her.

I love when we have an Occasional Blogger spotlighted, and Maureen Sullivan’s Old Classic Takes Students on New Adventures made me want to get back in the classroom and do a book club! I know her post was about one student’s initiative in reading and presenting, but I love book clubs and this post reminded me that we can’t look at books with our own preconceived assumptions of how students will react to a book. Her note about using classic stories for ESL adults made me think ‘oh yea, many of these books were written for adults in their time’, but because we read them as children, we tend to bring that mentality with us.  Side note: I did do a book club in my CLB 5-8 class, and they loved it!

Nancy Van Dorp: Like Cecilia, I particularly enjoy TESL Ontario’s reflective blogs, but I have a certain fondness for Diane Ramanathan’s post on Pronunciation: The Oft-Neglected Skill.  It was concise and effective, and used video to present information where audio was key to understanding. I hope to see more vlogs on our member blog in the future!

Beth BeardallBeth Beardall – It is really difficult to narrow down the variety of interesting and informative blogs over the year, but I always enjoy Laila’s personable writing style and practical tips in her posts. Her blog from March 7, 2016, The Multi-level Merger – can it work for you? provides great ideas and online resources for those who have the daunting task of teaching a multi-level classroom.

Michael Karas
Michael Karas

Michael Karas – Being a part of the TESL Ontario blog team this past year has been a wonderful experience. As many have already said, it’s tough to pick out just a few posts because there are so many great contributions! So I don’t get accused of ‘sitting on the fence’, one post that I found very useful was John’s post,  Need PD, No Money? Consider a Mooc, and the useful list that was provided. James’ post about online e-tools was also great! I’m looking forward to another great year in 2017 and learning from all of our wonderful contributors.

Let us know what your favourite post of 2016 was and why. We’d love to hear your feedback.



2 thoughts on “2016 – Year in Review”

  1. Kelly, you’re right! It shines a light on just how difficult it is to focus on learning English for those who have come from traumatic circumstances. Maria provides a lot of background information about how the brain processes trauma and then offers some excellent tips on setting up the classroom and creating a safe place in which to learn.

    Thank you for highlighting that post,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *